The Right People and Authenticity = Brand Loyalty

It’s pretty obvious which brands and places I love if you watch my Twitter feed on any given day.  I am a creature of habit, but I am also a creature who appreciates great customer service dished up alongside a fabulous product.

I am likely a marketing guru’s dream.  I make choices partly on emotion and image.  While they create ad campaigns, the marketers don’t control the employees who represent or sell the brand.  And for me, the front line employees are the make or break factor in determining whether I keep coming back.

My new job at Target Optical includes the role of representing the brand and training employees to represent the brand well.  So many components feed into this:  dress code, friendliness, guest service, product knowledge, and efficiency.  Hiring the right people is key, as some skills can be taught while others are deeply etched into who we are already.

I enjoy learning from outside of my Target bubble and have made a few observations about the following brands.  I hope to utilize these observations to increase my effectiveness at optical.

Dunn Bros.

We finally have one in the Quad Cities!  I fell in love with this coffee chain when I discovered a Dunn Bros. during a business trip in Rochester.  The employees were super friendly and the brand stood out for their freshly roasted beans.  It was right next to my hotel and kept me fueled for my four day media tour with a little known congressional candidate in southern Minnesota.

The Dunn Bros. in Bettendorf is always buzzing with people, a bit more upbeat than the area Starbucks.  I am always offered samples of the coffee, and the employees are allowed to deviate from a standard colored dress code.  The hippie side of me also loves the chances of seeing these in the parking lot:

Volkswagon Beetles, Dunn Bros.

I also like the added touch of the doggie dishes:

dog friendly business

And this brings me to my next favorite coffee shop, Starbucks.

Starbucks, while different from Dunn Bros., is a great coffee shop.  Most Starbucks have friendly employees who engage in conversation and suggest items to try.  I admire the brand and realize it is no coincidence that it is literally an icon of American coffee today.  I am a proud gold card member, and Sumatra is my favorite brew at home.  My favorite to go drink is a Venti (with whip) caramel latte.

The Grape Life and Wine-Nutz

Two local wine bars, both with fabulous owners.  The Grape Life is in Davenport; Wine-Nutz is in Muscatine.  Not sure what you want when you walk in the door?  No problem.  Whomever is working will make you feel at home and invite you to try something new.  Not pretentious, always fun people around.  You may lose track of time.

Frackie’s

So, it’s a west end dive bar.  This makes it all the more notable that I’ve received better service here than in some of the more upper scale restaurants in the Quad Cities.  Their vodka tonics actually have a decent amount of vodka, and Taco Tuesdays are delicious.

Mojo’s

G likes it.  Enough said.  If you are looking for speedy service, this isn’t your place.  But it has an artsy atmosphere, and the food is great.  I am willing to wait if I am treated well.  And they don’t even flinch when a toddler walks in the door.  The lunch performers often like to sing directly to G, which is awesome.

AT&T

I recently stopped in to ask about a billing issue and to change my address.  Deric was very professional and kind – even held the door open for me when I left.  Very cool.

These are just a few of the local spots I love.  Others – most recently Dunkin Donuts and The Gap – have been disappointing, given their national prominence.  Maybe my expectations are high since I have worked in the service industry and know the difference between OK and great.

I have also been in the shoes of the hiring decision maker, and I would always sacrifice a great staffing score (having all positions filled) in exchange for waiting to find the right people for positions.  So much is at stake with finding the right people.  It’s your brand on the line.

Even if you have a do-it-yourself online company, someone friendly needs to answer the phones and help customers solve problems.  People do make the difference.  I am willing to pay a few cents more if it means better service and fewer headaches.  The experience makes me loyal to a brand.

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